A new exhibition sheds light on the work of gardeners at a Yorkshire stately home in the First World War, reports MAXINE GORDON

VISITORS to Harewood House this summer will be able to step back in time to 1918 and discover the secrets of the wartime garden.

Seeds of Hope is a new exhibition, opening on June 30, to commemorate the end of the First World War.

Situated in The Bothy – which has never previously been open to the public – and the Walled Garden, visitors can time travel to the Harewood walled garden on the eve of Armistice and see the types of fruit, vegetables and flowers as well as goats and chickens that would have been there back in 1918. Demonstrations, displays and activities will bring the past to life, and a new, pop-up horse box café will be selling heritage cream teas.

The exhibition will explore life at Harewood from 1914-1918 through the eyes of the gardeners who lived and worked there.

Organisers have been collecting stories and photographs from the ancestors of Harewood workers to share with the public and bring the past to life.

We are publishing some of these photographs here today. They show some of the gardeners and estate staff at work just after the war in the 1920s.

Other pictures show soldiers and nurses in the grounds and outside the house – Harewood was used as a convalescence hospital for wounded soldiers during the First World War (and also in the Second World War).

Many of the photos feature Olive Ranson, a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) nurse stationed at Harewood during the war. The VAD system used civilians to work with injured soldiers and Olive was one of 74,000 by the outbreak of the Second World War. The photographs show her with some of her patients, but there are images too of her autograph book, in which the soldiers would sign their names of leave drawings. This was a common practice at the time.

Trevor Nicholson, head gardener at Harewood House, said his team were recreating the garden of 1918 for the exhibition. He said: "Working in the same walled garden as our wartime forebears, we are planting a wide range of heritage vegetables and flowers to create an experience for visitors that represents the nation’s hopes for peace in 1918 and celebrates the valuable contribution to local and national food supplies made by Harewood’s gardeners of a century ago."

The project will also showcase the produce, livestock and crops that would have been seen in the garden at the time and used by the house and wider community.

Trevor added that visitors would be able to buy a specially created range of seeds – The Head Gardeners Collection – which would be sold in packs containing individual seed varieties inspired by the Seeds of Hope project.

Curators say the exhibition paints a picture of the Harewood estate as a place of "resilience and restoration".

They have gathered images, articles and stories from the local community to use in the exhibition – but would love to find more, and would particularly like to hear from any ancestors of gardeners or estate staff who worked at Harewood during 1914-1918.

If you have any stories or images to share, contact Rebecca Burton, collections assistant, on email: rebecca.b@harewood.org or by telephone on 0113 218 1051.